Oct. 18--Doris Velez is glad she has a supportive boss who accommodated her when the opportunity arose to star in UTEP Dinner Theatre's season-opening production of "9 to 5: The Musical."
There's something else she feels lucky about.
The student activities manager at Chapin High School is glad the women's rights and equal rights movements have come a long way since 1979, the year in which the musical comedy is set.
"I'm very fortunate to be able to live in this time, where there is a lot of opportunity for more equality for different jobs," said Velez, who plays the strong-willed and resourceful widow Violet Newstead (played by Lily Tomlin in the 1980 movie).
"But I also know it's not like that everywhere," Velez added. "I'm fortunate to be able to experience and be given opportunities, in spite of my age or gender. But I know that it's still happening."
"That" is the kind of good ol' boy sexism that Consolidated Industries President Franklin Hart Jr. has been getting away with in "9 to 5."
He passes over Violet for a promotion she's earned, spreads rumors about a fictitious affair with fellow office worker Doralee Rhodes, and makes life miserable for new hire Judy Bernley.
The musical had a short run on Broadway in 2009. Its book is by Nancy Resnick, who also co-wrote the movie, and its songs were written by Dolly Parton, who also played Doralee in the movie and wrote the movie's hit title song.
Director Jaime Barba said "9 to 5" is that rare musical that manages to tackle the contemporary issue of equality in a really funny way, as the three women first fantasize about and then get their sweet revenge.
"The movie is one of my favorites. When I sew costumes up here, we watch movies, and that's one of the movies we watch," said Barba, who also is UTEP Dinner Theatre's costume designer.
He read the script over the summer and "was laughing out loud."
"There are some very, very funny scenes between the three women," he said. "They are identical (to the movie) in the play. It's very, very funny.
"But the message from the film is still the message in the play, about the empowerment of women and how women are equal to men."
Though it's set in 1979, that message is still timely, Barba said, and it's imparted in a way that's thoughtful, humorous and entertaining.
"It's still something that's as viable in today's society. Walls are broken down every day," Barba said.
"There's a song called 'Change It.' It's true for anybody. If you're unhappy with your situation, it's up to you to find a way to change it. That's important if you're black, white, purple, green or blue."
The play features three substantial roles for women who can sing and act, he said. Barba describes "9 to 5" as a "classic musical" with "great parts for women."
"Normally, in a musical, the woman is the ingenue or love interest who sings the sappy songs," he said. "These three parts are character-driven. They're great parts for women to play. It would be a part an actress who does do musicals would want to play because they're meaty."
Velez, who last appeared at the University Dinner Theatre in "The Sound of Music" in 2011, agrees. She sees Violet as someone who has "a bigger vision" than some around her.
"She's a big person in small shoes, and she's doing everything she can possibly to do maintain her morals, her values and her mindset," Velez said.
"Unfortunately, she doesn't fit into the role that she has to live every day," Velez added, "I think because she continues to stay true to herself and what she believes. People admire her and respect her and listen to her. I'm trying to portray her in that sense."
Ten members of Barba's 17-person cast are women. Annie Pennies, who starred in the dinner theater's 2006 production of "Aida," plays Doralee, Parton's character in the movie. Megan Hanner plays Judy, created for the screen by Jane Fonda, with William Gilbert as their lecherous boss, played by Dabney Coleman in the movie.
Velez is just glad her boss, who also is a woman, accommodated her desire to play Violet, a role she took on after auditioning for next year's "Smokey Joe's Cafe."
"The cards lined up. Someone was looking out for me. Maybe this is where I'm supposed to be at this time," she said.
"It hasn't been easy trying to juggle everything, but (that) goes with the theme of the show."
Doug Pullen may be reached at 546-6397. Read Pullen My Blog at elpasotimes.com/blogs.
What: UTEP Dinner Theatre's "9 to 5: The Musical."
When: Today through Nov. 3. Performances are at 7 p.m. except Sundays, which are at 1:30 p.m. this Sunday and 2:30 p.m. Oct. 27 and Nov. 3.
Where: UTEP Dinner Theatre, UTEP Union Building West.
How much: $33-$45 Fridays and Saturdays; $30-$40 Wednesdays, Thursdays and this Sunday; $16-$26 Sunday matinee without meal (Oct. 27 and Nov. 3).
Information: 747-6060, academics.utep.edu/udt.
Menu: Chicken Wellington with veloute sauce, pasta Roma, garden salad with house dressings, dinner rolls, coffee, iced tea, apple crisp a la mode.
Also: Due to construction on campus, free parking for theater patrons is available in the surface lots next to the Education and Liberal Arts buildings. Five parking spaces for people with disabilities are available near the theater entrance.
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